What is the role of culture in explaining the differences in business systems in Asia and the West? What does it explain and what does it not explain?

Essay by AsiapacificUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, May 2008

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When researching the differences in business systems between Asia and the West it is very difficult to find any material that does not attribute many of these disparities to cultural influences (Davidson, 1987; Ferguson, 1993 and Blackman, 1997). This is due to the fact that it is generally believed that intercultural awareness does contribute to successfully doing business in another culture. However, establishing how and where culture affects business systems is by no means an easy question to answer and many western businesses are in fact currently trying to answer this question in order to successfully integrate into the Chinese marketplace (Dayton, 2006 and Journal of Intercultural Learning, 2006). Therefore, in this essay I will analyse exactly what role culture has in explaining the distinctions between business systems in the West and China and argue that in many cases these discrepancies are incorrectly attributed to cultural reasons when in fact these variations can be explained by using far more obvious economic causes.

Harris (2006) notes the eagerness of business journalists to attribute the differences in Western and Asian business systems to cultural factors by stating: “the airport newsstand best-sellers and glossy news weeklies are packed with admonishments to 'preserve face' and build relationships” and “local Chinese writers have jumped on the bandwagon, poking fun at the clueless westerners blundering towards failure in China because they don't understand the local culture”. Graham and Lam (2003) concur stating that Western and Chinese approaches to business “often appear incompatible”. Graham and Lam (2003) also believe that these differences in business systems and attitudes stem from “deep cultural origins” and in order for western business to successfully interact with their Chinese counterparts they must understand the cause of these differences is in fact their cultural differences.

However, Maidment (2006) argues that western Multi-National Companies...